Shacking up: Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Posted by: Center for Growth Therapists

Couples Therapy in Philadelphia: Shacking Up - Should I or Shouldn't I?  So your partner popped the question you’ve been waiting for. Not “the” question, the other question, “will you move in with me?” It’s exciting; the idea of decorating a shared space together, having someone to come home to on a consistent basis, sharing the same address, it’s all you have hoped for.  But, there is a lot to consider before signing that one year lease.  A million questions may be racing through your head, “What does this mean for our future together? What will my mother think? How will this work exactly?  What happens if this doesn’t work?” Before the two of you start picking out your new bedding, the following topics will be helpful factors to consider when deciding if cohabiting is right for you.

Not everyone is a fan of shacking up in Philadelphia ... 
Thanks to the sexual revolution, moving in with your mate is about as common as a corner Starbucks; According to the US Census Bureau, unmarried households became the majority of all households in 2005.  The research at The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has found that cohabiting before marriage results in less stable marriages, and therefore divorce.  However, to go even further in the argument of shacking up vs. shacking apart, research has also found that the couples who do marry without cohabiting first tend to be more religious and therefore less inclined to view divorce as an option (Alternatives to Marriage Project, 2010).  Therefore, it seems to be that there is a statistic or every angle in this argument to the point that you have talked yourself in circles!  However, even in the most modern times, you may have that one family member or friend completely opposed to shacking up before getting hitched. It is important before moving in together to share your happy news with family and friends.  It is understandable that you or your partner may want to avoid any conflict with opposed family members or friends, but not being open about the next phase of your relationship starts it off on the wrong foot.  In fact, it sets your relationship on a more secretive foot.  It is important to go into cohabiting with full acceptance and awareness of all that is involved, that means the good and the bad.  So, if you have that potentially difficult parent or concerned best friend; set aside time individually with that person, share the news and explain your point of view and the reasons for your decision.  Be patient and respectful of their response and allow them the opportunity to share their concerns.  Not everyone will approve of your decision to cohabit, but then again, you’re not doing it for everyone’s approval, you are doing it for yourself, and for your partner. 

You have to, have to, have to.. Have the talk!!! Come on, you know the talk. The “where do you think this is going ?”talk. Yes, the “where are we going” conversation and possible results of the talk are scary, yes it is uncomfortable, and no you if you are hoping for a marital future with this person, you can’t move in without the talk. To give you a better idea of how to prepare yourself for the talk, ask yourself the following questions: what does cohabiting mean to you?  Does cohabiting to you mean the last step before an engagement? How long can you see yourself living with your partner before you expect more, such as marriage, starting a family, buying a house, etc. Do you even want to ever get married? Does your partner? If you marriage is not even close to being on your radar, than this paragraph is not for you.  Perhaps you and your partner are happy with living together and currently have no interest in pursuing a marital commitment or family planning, which is a great plan if that is what you have identified to work for you.  Reflect on these questions and develop your own answers, but once you do it is imperative that you and your partner sit down, take turns, and openly discuss both of your answers to these questions.

You may be afraid that having “the talk” may be too much to talk about and may push him or her away. Initiating the conversation is nerve wracking but, if the two of you are not comfortable enough to engage in this conversation, then perhaps you’re not ready to merge your two lives and be shacking up into one apartment.  Sharing living quarters means sharing all of you.  You’re sharing your goods days, your absolute 100%  crappy days, the days where you’re just in a funk and you can’t seem to get out of it.  It also means, sharing your future, so if you don’t think there is room for your partner in the future, or vice-versa, then maybe you should hold off on making the move. Not discussing expectations and your hopes for the relationship, means risking not being on the same page two years from now.  What if one of you doesn’t want children but waited 3 years to find out that very significant piece of information? If your partner is not willing to have “the talk” with you, perhaps this is a red flag and depending on what you want out of the relationship, you may want to proceed with caution. Your partner may want look at cohabiting as an opportunity to save money while getting to see you more, but without any other future intentions.  It is important to then decide is that a mindset that you also share.  Think about it this way, having the talk may be exactly what you need in order to make the right decision for you.

Why do you want to be shacking up in Philadelphia and moving in with your partner?

Sure cohabiting has it’s perks, you have the potential to save on rent and groceries, and bonus, you finally get to move out of your dingy apartment and away from that creepy roommate you’ve endured for too long. However, you don’t want to cohabit based on these factors alone.  Cohabiting is about wanting to see more parts and aspects of your partner, as well as wanting to share more of you and more of your time with your partner.  Cohabiting may also just be about spending more time together, and the idea of merging together into one space may feel like the natural thing to do at this time, without other intentions for the future. Regardless of the reason, cohabiting is a great lesson in learning how to work as a team on some of the necessary tasks that real life brings, such as organizing and paying bills, keeping up with cleaning and maintenance issues of where you live.  Most importantly, cohabiting involves communicating and handling conflict with your partner 24/7.  You no longer have separate places where you can both retreat and take breaks from each other when needed.  As a couple, when you argue or you’re experiencing a disagreement, you’re doing so with your lover, your friend, and your roommate all at once. 

While shacking up in philadelphia / cohabiting is a great way to get a full scope of your compatibility with your partner,  cohabiting before marriage is not to be used as an open audition for a husband or wife. It is an opportunity to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly of a domestic partnership, but without the pressure and fear of divorce.  Not to mention, people who cohabit are aware they under a microscope, therefore it’s common for cohabited couples to be on their best behavior during the premarital years.  Often one’s true colors and true habits don’t fully come out until a little bit of the pressure has worn off and the couple has married. There is already enough fear and anxiety regarding the initial days of the move in, the last thing you need is to analyze your partner’s every action with the constant tallying of marriage potential points in the back of your head.  Most likely if marriage is eventually your goal, and you are ready to move in with your partner, you should already have a good idea that your partner is your future “Mr.” or “Mrs.” 

Lifestyles.  Is Shacking Up in Philadelphia Practical?
It’s important to assess the practically of shacking up / cohabiting with a consideration of each others lifestyles.  For example, if you are the type of person who is up before 7am every morning, but your partner is a night owl, there will be a lot of compromises to make for each other regarding respecting schedules and sleep.  Do you have deadly cat allergies, and your partner has no plans to give away his/her three furry kittens? Also in terms of practicalities, make sure you and your partner are being practical about the size of the space you plan to move into.  Ideally considering apartments that offer more space so the two of you don’t feel like your living on top of each other will be a major help in the long run.  It is extremely beneficial that you consider your resources when assessing the practicality of cohabitation, and make sure you have the items necessary to make you and your partner more comfortable with the idea of sharing space and living together. Other practical issues to consider is the location of where you are moving, is it suitable for your current lifestyle? Does it double your commute to work? Does the location isolate you from all of your friends, or does it enable you to spend more time in your favorite neighborhood? The less extra stressful factors, the better.  If you and your partner’s current financial situation does not allow you the ability to pay extra for more square footage, or it does not enable you to live in a more practical neighborhood, perhaps the two of you need more time to save money in order to afford the right place for cohabitation. 

Natural breaks is another important factor to not only consider, but to discuss with your partner.  Whether one of you originally came to the area temporarily for work or school, or one of you plans to move away in the next few years for family reasons or a career, locations, time lines, and goals are all significant topics to discuss. As long as the two of you discuss the possibility of a natural break occurring during your shacking up / cohabiting in Philadelphia, and as long as the two of your are comfortable with details, that is what matters. 

Family dynamics and family involvement will be a major deal-breaker when it comes to the issue of practicality and consideration of different lifestyles. If marriage is an eventual step you and your partner are planning on, what will this to do family dynamics? Does your partner get along with your family and primary support system, and does your family accept and get along with your partner? If serious conflict between your partner and family are already present, cohabiting and marriage will only exacerbate the the problems between the two systems. How will you respond to the ongoing conflict once you have shacked up? How will your partner and family respond? If you are the one struggling with your potential in-laws, how much conflict and negativity are you willing to endure for your relationship? Will you eventually want to end the relationship because of ongoing family related issues, or do you see you and your partner working towards a resolution with each others families?

Yes, there is more to consider when shacking up in Philadelphia…..

Another factor to keep in mind is you and your partner’s track record.  Have either of you shacked up with significant others before?  If so, what was the good and the bad? How long did you date before shacking up, and where did it go wrong? These are very important questions to ask or answer, depending on you and your partner’s track record with shacking up.

A general rule of thumb is to wait to move in with your partner until the two of you have been dating for at least one year.  The idea is that one year gives you more time to have a better idea of who your partner is, and what makes him or her tick.  Clearly, not everyone agrees with this theory, and whether it has been 6 months, or 16 months, in the end it is your call.  Just have an escape! If you are the type of person who believes “when you know, you know,” and caution just falls by the waste side, be sure to have a plan B on the back burner.  With a plan a B you can avoid the added stress of “where am I going to live?” in the event cohabiting doesn’t work out.  Regardless of the length of time, it’s essential that you feel 100 percent comfortable with your partner, and confident that you know enough about him to make a cohabiting commitment.  How do you know if you know enough about him? Are you comfortable in addressing conflict and openly discussing concerns with your partner? Do you know about your partner’s family background, and have you met any of your partner’s family? Have you witnessed your partner engage and interact with others close to him or her? Is your partner wanting to move in together to spend more time with you? How people respond to cohabiting is unpredictable and varies with each person, so the better sense you have of your partner, the better chance you have predicting your partner’s cohabiting behaviors and potential responses. 

Shacking up is not for everyone, many would prefer marriage or keeping separate homes rather than choosing the more “in limbo option.”  The idea of cohabiting without marriage can still be a risky and scary decision to go through with.  The stakes are higher, the outcome is unknown, and the idea of breaking up and moving out is scarier than ever.  When it comes down to you, you have the tools and the knowledge to make the right decision for you.  As you follow through with each recommendation you will begin to have a better idea of what may or may not work.  Having the talk with your partner may bring a huge sigh of relief that he or she has the same future in mind, or it may just be the wake up call that you’ve been needing.  It is a massive amount of information to take in, but the more you want this (shacking up) the more willing you need to be to face each of these recommendations and move ahead with your eyes wide open.  Facing skeptical friends, opening up skeletons from the past and discussing previous shacking up attempts, and being honest about the main reasons for cohabiting are scary and vulnerable steps to make, but they are steps that will provide more clarity.  If you do make the decision to shack up, and you have successfully approached the above topics,  you have then effectively communicated with your partner, practiced compromise in order to maintain and improve the relationship, and overall took responsibility for your relationship.  These will be invaluable and necessary tools to always have and practice throughout your relationship, no matter the step the two of you decide to take together. 

We decided to move in together. Now What?

Struggling?  Contact a couples therapist in philadelphia. We are here to help 267-324-9564.